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First Aid for Butterflies

3. If the proboscis does not extend naturally, help it out by uncurling it with a toothpick. Carefully place the toothpick into the center of the curled proboscis. It will look like a coiled watch spring. Then gently uncurl it until it makes contact with the feeding pad. You may have to hold it in place for a minute or so before the butterfly begins feeding.

4. Once the drinking tube is extended, watch for any up-and-down pumping action of the proboscis. If no motion is detected, take the forefinger and thumb of each hand and hold the butterfly’s front wings near the front edges. Hold each front wing, one between each set of your fingers, as close to the butterfly’s body as possible.

5. Begin to move the wings up and down in a flapping motion. This action may start the suction inside the proboscis and draw the needed food into your patient.

And in the meantime, if you have any garden space, please consider planting some butterfly-friendly plants. Monarchs especially are having a hard row to hoe. Their numbers are dwindling due to severe weather and habitat conversion where they over-winter in Mexico. In addition, the loss of milkweed (which they require) due to the overzealous use of agricultural herbicides is causing great concern.

Chip Taylor, director of Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas, has asked the public to pitch in, he encourages gardeners, homeowners, schools, governments and businesses to plant monarch “way stations” consisting of milkweeds and other butterfly plants, in hopes that the dedicated habitats will sustain a threatened population during its migration.

For more information, see:  All About Butterflies, Monarch Butterflies Under Siege, and Make Butterfly Bait

Read more: Family, Lawns & Gardens, Less Common Pets, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, News & Issues, Outdoor Activities, Remedies & Treatments, , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

721 comments

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5:40AM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

thank you for the interesting article 20/7

2:15PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

Good article,very helpful,thanks for sharing

4:06PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Had no idea! Thanks for article on how we can help beautiful butterflies :)

8:54PM PDT on May 2, 2013

Thank you for the instructional post. I'm amazed that we can actually help a butterfly. I'm ready to nurse any butterfly that needs help. (p, t)

8:02AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

hvala

2:06PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

ty

8:17PM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

I did not know this, and am now informed...thanks

1:59PM PDT on May 30, 2012

i'd be scared to tape a wing...

1:26PM PDT on May 30, 2012

An interesting thing when I rescued a butterfly some years ago - the butterfly was the whole summer in my near (I remembered the one, cause one wing was a little damaged, but he was able to fly away...

1:25PM PDT on May 30, 2012

An interesting thing when I rescued a butterfly some years ago - the butterfly was the whole summer in my near (I remembered the one, cause one wing was a little damaged, but he was able to fly away...

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